Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 22, Vol. III

A brief scene from Wednesday’s Red Sox-Orioles game, attended by yours truly:

Me, thinking to myself in the third inning: Oh, Manny Machado. Nice. Have I seen him in person yet? I don’t think I have. Well this is awesome, isn’t it? Why yes it is, self. This is awesome.

Announcer: Now batting, the third baseman, Manny Machado.

Me, thinking to myself: Ohmygodohmygod!

Pack of girls arrive fashionably late, sitting in seats next to me. One leans into my field of vision, a total eclipse of the Machado, and asks: Are you guys in the right seats?

Me: We’re in the right seats.

Girls chat about seat location, eclipse continues, I finally regain vision of the field to see Manny Machado running slowly. Too slowly.

Manny Machado hit a home run.

Me, talking to no one in particular: Wait, what? What happened? Did he hit a home run? Did Manny Machado hit a home run? DID THAT HAPPEN?

So, that happened. The only saving grace from missing a chance to see Manny Machado go deep during his Age 20 season is the fact that I don’t own him on any of my fantasy teams. If I did? I would have caused an epic scene, to be sure. Instead I just pouted for the next six innings, went home, and vented to the whole internet about it. The thing is, I feel better.

So let’s dive into today’s Wire, shall we?

Taijuan Walker | Seattle Mariners | SP | ESPN: 2.7 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 22 percent; CBS: 41 percent
ZiPS preseason projection: 6-11, 4.89 ERA in 20 starts

He’s here.

After being selected 43rd overall as a high schooler in 2010, Walker has exploded onto the professional scene, posting consistently excellent numbers, particularly when accounting for his extreme relative youth. On Friday, he will take his considerable talent to the major leagues to debut against the hapless Astros. It remains to be seen how long Walker will remain with club, but he’s worth adding in all leagues until he gets sent back down or shut down for the season. Since I’m not a scout, and his minor league numbers don’t explode off the page until you account for his age relative to the leagues he’s pitched in, I thought it might be fun and helpful to provide a smattering of quotes from past Baseball America Prospect Handbooks chronicling his path to tonight’s game.

First, from 2011, after Walker made a brief debut during the 2010 Arizona Fall League:

Walker was known more as a shortstop and basketball forward prior to 2010. He averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a high school senior, with his dunking ability earning him the nickname “Sky Walker.” […] His fastball ranged from 91-95 mph in high school, and after he was shut down in his pro debut with shoulder stiffness, he returned in instructional league to sit at 95 and top out at 98 with heavy sink. His 12-to-6 curveball shows flashes of being a plus pitch, though he focused more on honing his changeup during instructional league.

Then, in last year’s edition:

Walker, who will be 19 for most of the 2012 season, may open the year at high Class A High Desert, which would be close to where he grew up. On the other hand, some club officials want to skip Walker straight to Double-A. The Mariners are already in good shape at the top of their rotation with Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but Walker profiles as another potential ace and could be in the big leagues by the end of 2013.

Uh, good call by them. Good thing I’m leaving the analysis to the pros here. In this year’s book, BA tempered the excitement, but only slightly.

He has electric stuff at times but stll needs to command it better. His 2012 stats may not show it, but Walker is one of the best pitching prospects in the game and a potential ace.

Recommendation: That potential ace begins his journey to stardom today. Pick him up, tune in for his start, and enjoy the ride.

Marco Estrada | Milwaukee Brewers | SP | ESPN: 13.7 percent ownership; Yahoo!: 40 percent; CBS: 50 percent
YTD: 6-4, 4.44 ERA in 16 starts
ZiPS updated projection: 7-5, 4.44 ERA in 20 starts

Switching gears just a bit here. Estrada was a preseason sleeper favorite of many, including yours truly. (Two yours trulys in one column? Must be a Friday.) Most of that was based on strong strikeout and walk rates during 23 starts for the Brewers last summer, as the righty fanned 25.4 percent of the batters he faced, and walked just 5.2 percent. This season hasn’t gone according to that plan, however, as Estrada struggled and then missed two months with a hamstring injury.

He returned in early August, though, and he’s been stellar since coming back. In his first game back, he threw five scoreless innings against the Giants, striking out six and walking none. In his following three efforts, he offered up 19 innings, allowed just five runs (four of which were in one game), struck out 15 and walked three. That included an impressive gem against the Reds, where he went seven strong, didn’t allow a run, struck out nine and walked two.

It seems safe to say he’s healthy again, and it’s possible he’s ready to deliver on his considerable preseason hype. With the Brewers out of contention, and the rotation not exactly challening that of the Dodgers anytime soon, this looks like an investment worth making. I’m wary of his historically weak groundball rates, but the rest of his profile is too good to pass up right now.

Recommendation: Worth adding in mixed leagues down the stretch. Worth socking away as a preseason sleeper for next year again, as well.

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  1. Belle of the League said...

    I know your game was at Fenway, but I went to Camden Yards a few weeks ago as part of my annual motorcycle tour to ballparks vacation and to eventually meet up (in Philly at CBP) with some of the members of an international fantasy league of which I am commissioner.
    The seat was 2 rows from the field on the 3rd base side behind the visitor dugout. Chris Davis (who I don’t own in any of the leagues I play either either…arrgh!) hit a HR, but the big play for me-Villar stole home.  I’d never seen that live and the seat was perfect for it. 
    BTW, I’ve posted some great pics online.

    Walker-Strategy questions: My style is to avoid hype and take a “wait and see” approach whether it’s a rookie start or the first start for a pitcher coming off the DL. I’ll pick up the rookie, but bench him until his second start. My reasons for benching a pitcher just off the DL should be obvious.
    Your recommendation is more aggressive than my style. Is this your general strategy or do you carefully choose which rookies you start?  Has it worked for you most of the time?

  2. Jack Weiland said...

    @Belle – Great question. Part of it comes down to personal preference, and part of it comes down to context. I’m aggressive with the right prospects/pitchers returning from injury, and in leagues where the veteran replacement is either so plentiful that they’re dime a dozen, or the replacement veteran is worse than average. Everything depends on this context.

    If faced with a decision between a starter who is merely league average(not a pejorative) and someone who has a chance to be even a small bit better, I feel like the roll of the dice is worth it. We’re trying to squeeze every bit of value that we can. Worst case scenario that guy goes down in flames and you dump him back to the wire in favor of a safer option.

    With a big prospect, or a player returning from injury, there is a lot more guesswork at play, and I think that’s okay. Given a known entity who is average, and an unknown entity who could be worth more, I think you’ve got to take that chance. I don’t see value in playing it safe, and think the wait-and-see approach used too often will lead to wait-and-see-them-on-someone-else’s-team. Ya dig?

    At any rate, different strokes for different folks. I use both approaches depending on the context, but I do agree I’m aggressive, and that generally works for me. Sometimes it ends horribly but that’s fantasy baseball, eh?

  3. Jack Weiland said...

    @Belle – By the way, international league? Meaning you have owners all over the world? That sounds pretty cool.

    Can’t say I’ve ever seen someone steal home in person, either, so I can’t blame you for being blown away. Not many things better than being at the park in the late summer, is there? Life’s good, indeed.

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